Icily ef­fi­cient, but lost at the cin­ema

To­mas Al­fred­son’s classy adap­ta­tion of a much-ad­mired Scandi de­tec­tive novel seems a lit­tle out of place on the big screen , writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE


Di­rected by To­mas Al­fred­son. Star­ring Michael Fass­ben­der, Re­becca Fer­gu­son, Char­lotte Gains­bourg, Val Kilmer, JK Sim­mons. 15A cert, gen re­lease, 120 min

There’s noth­ing much wrong with To­mas Al­fred­son’s classy adap­ta­tion of an ad­mired de­tec­tive novel from the Nor­we­gian au­thor Jo Nesbø. Michael Fass­ben­der has enough weary charisma to play Harry Hole, the ar­che­typal trou­bled cop, with­out break­ing into so much as a trot.

Re­becca Fer­gu­son con­firms her ris­ing sta­tus with a win­ning, in­tel­li­gent per­for­mance as a bal­anc­ing side­kick. And, as Al­fred­son has shown in Let the Right One In and Tinker

Tai­lor Sol­dier Spy, no­body is bet­ter at in­fil­trat­ing damp, mouldy grav­ity into genre ex­er­cises. You can feel the pa­thet­i­cally fal­la­cious snow shrink­ing your bones within min­utes of the cred­its rolling.

We can for­give Nesbø for cre­at­ing yet an­other boozed-up flawed ge­nius who im­me­di­ately in­tu­its more than the rest of the depart­ment could de­duce if bathed in ev­i­dence for a decade. The char­ac­ter is as much a re­li­able sta­ple of de­tec­tive fic­tion – hello, Insp

Re­bus – as Pier­rot is of com­me­dia dell’arte, and Fass­ben­der gives us a knotty, ro­bust vari­a­tion on the theme.

We be­gin with a pro­logue in which, some­where out in the tun­dra, a young boy en­dures abuse from his mother’s ghastly boyfriend. Decades later, women are be­ing mur­dered in Oslo at the first snow­fall of win­ter. Do the snow­men that ap­pear near the vic­tims’ homes of­fer any clues? You bet your Scandi noir they do.

Once Harry Hole has crawled off his bench, and shaken the ice out of his ears, he is seek­ing an­swers in the lower depths and cor­ri­dors of power.

Here’s the prob­lem. Over the past few decades some­thing has shifted in screen cul­ture. The pro­ce­dural de­tec­tive thriller barely ex­ists in cin­e­mas any longer. Whereas Nordic thrillers have taken over telly, even The Girl with the Dragon

Tat­too strug­gled to make money in the megaplex.

Al­fred­son has made a very de­cent thriller, full of rich per­for­mances and hair­pin turns, but it feels strangely out of po­si­tion. Such things shouldn’t mat­ter. But they do.

Which way to TV? Michael Fass­ben­der in The Snowman

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